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Don’t you separate?

“Don’t you separate your whites from your colors?” Raoul asked, as he watched me stuff my clothes into my duffel bag.

“Are you kidding? I’ve never done that! What’s the point?” I continued my stuffing, all clothes melding together. I’m not exactly a high-maintenance person when it comes to household duties, and laundry is no exception.

Raoul shook his head slowly at me, as he got up from my living-room chair. “My mom would have a heart attack if she saw you doing that.”

“And how do you do your laundry?” I put my hands on my hips, expecting him to say that he doesn’t even do it himself.

“Are you kidding me? I separate them all out-how else are you going to keep your colors bright?”

You had to hand it to the kid — sometimes he really took me by surprise. Just when I thought I had him pegged as one type or another, he pulls a fast one on me. I smirked as I imagined him carefully separating each piece of clothing into two tidy piles of darks and lights.

“I’ll bet you’re also one of those people who folds their laundry at the laundromat,” I said.

“Of course — otherwise it gets all wrinkled!” I laughed, deciding not to tell him that sometimes I would bring my clean laundry home in a duffel bag and leave it there for days without folding it, just picking out items as I needed them. Best to ease people into my bad habits, I say.

LaundromatWe walked the few blocks to the laundromat, with my duffel bag digging into my shoulder with every step. But it wasn’t just any laundromat, oh no — this was the Bedford Laundromat, owned by none other than Ruth Perez. Although the ownership of the place seems a bit shaky, if you ask me — it used to be owned by the Perezes, but now it seems that a Chinese guy has bought into the whole picture because I see them working side by side now.

Along with the Chinese fellow came a bunch of improvements to the place, including neon signs and shiny new washers, but what I can’t understand is that the old owners still stick around too.

Another day…

But that was a mystery for another day. The one at hand today is none other than the quilt and nothing but the quilt. Since I had to throw a load in anyway I thought it might help my disguise by actually bringing along real clothes.

Somehow Raoul would weasel his way in to talking with the owner, thanks to his stellar Spanish skills. Meanwhile, I hunted for a washer (no easy task on a Saturday afternoon), and to my surprise I managed to snag one of the big ones that you can dump the entire contents of your duffel into.

Pleased with my success, I dumped everything into the washer in one clump, adding some detergent. I sat down, looking at the line of bags on the folding table.

Some people actually just drop off their laundry and have it done for them, but I personally think they’re missing out on the satisfaction of doing it yourself, watching your clothes being tumbled around and sudsed and spun. It was a sign that this neighborhood was changing, when they actually added the full-service option. Personally, I’m still a die-hard do-it-yourselfer.

GumballsI was musing about the profile of the person who fits the drop-it-off category when a Japanese man sat down next to me. Looking at me with a big smile, he pointed at the gumball machine. “I just got my favorite color out of the machine,” he said. “Red!” He pointed at the gum in his mouth. I nodded and smiled, and as I did I noticed that he didn’t have any shoes on. “Where are your shoes?” I pointed at his feet. “I’m washing them, shhhh!”

The LaundromatNow normally I’m not one for striking up conversations with people in the laundromat, because I’d rather be lost in my own thoughts or lost in a good page-turner, but this guy had my attention. Hey, he was entertaining, anyway. His enthusiasm for the right color of gumball was appealing to me.

He turned then to the Puerto Rican guy sitting on the other side of me, and reiterated his gumball success. I got the feeling that he had just moved to the country and wanted to show off his new English skills. Apparently, the Puerto Rican guy was impressed, because he let out a hearty laugh as they both nodded and smiled.

I was watching the Japanese guy-who was now jawing away with the Chinese owner-when I remembered the task at hand. I looked for Raoul, who was in the back room where they used to give you quarters for your bills (a new shiny machine takes care of that now, thanks to the new owners).

Raoul had mumbled something to me about his plan of action, being that he was going to ask for advice about how to wash a quilt and to see where that got him. I had no idea where that would get him, either, but you have to admit the kid hasn’t done such a shabby job so far, so who was I to complain? I decided to keep a low profile on this one, seeing as I didn’t know the language anyway, so what could I do?

I looked over just in time to see Raoul helping the other owner get a quilt down from a top shelf. She unfolded it, and they started blathering on (don’t ask me!) as they looked over the quilt, and she was nodding and running her hands down the edge of it.

I was wondering how on earth one does wash a quilt, anyway–hey, I’m only a quilt detective, not an expert here–and I was wishing suddenly that I did speak Spanish so I could get some tips from her. Not that I even own a quilt anyway, but heck, my curiosity was piqued!

Before my curiosity could go any further, though, I saw Raoul turn the quilt over and that’s when I saw the letters — I couldn’t see what they were exactly, but that’s when I knew we had our quilt. And here I had doubted the kid!

The trouble was, she quickly turned the quilt back over and folded it again in haste. For a second, I thought she might be on to us or something, but then she smiled at Raoul and gave him a pat on the shoulder. Raoul left then, with what seemed like a hearty “thank you” and left the laundromat.

Spin CycleA long spin cycle later, I was able to join him outside without arousing suspicion. “So, did you get some good washing tips?” I nudged him.

“And then some,” he said, grinning.

Well, at least you can’t fault the kid for being enthusiastic! I even smiled in spite of myself, although I knew that his grinning was more of a bragging thing with him. Still, how could you resist?

“I got the goods, Mitzi, I got the goods.” He held up his little notebook with a scribbled border on it, and the letters “ll” on the left side. What really caught my eye, though, was what he had scribbled on the bottom of it–”10:00 p.m.”

Tick… Tock… Ten O’Clock

“What’s with the 10:00 p.m.?” I asked.

His eyes got all big. “I know, that’s what I thought. For a second, I almost asked her myself, I was so surprised! I think we’re on to something here, Mitzi!!”

“Good job, kid,” I patted him on the shoulder. “I must say, you never cease to amaze me as you continue to dazzle the neighborhood.”

“Yep, it must just be my natural charm, I guess,” he responded.

“So tell me, how do you wash a quilt?” I asked. (What can I say, a girl was curious!)

“Wouldn’t you like to know,” he stuffed his notebook back in his pocket, as his cool demeanor took over from his wide-eyed enthusiasm of just a minute earlier. “Wouldn’t you like to know.”

Actually, I’d like to know a lot of things, not the least of which was what was this mystery quilt about? And what’s a quilt doing with “10:00 p.m.” scribbled on the back of it? These things and more a quilt detective had to know.

But first things first — I still had drying to do.

to be continued…